How to use 划算 (huásuàn) in Mandarin Chinese: to be a bargain

To talk about bargains and good deals in Chinese, you can use the word 划算 (huásuàn). This word has various meanings including “to calculate”, “to weigh up”, “worthwhile”, “economical”, “to get one’s money’s worth” etc.

We’re interested in the ones about things being good value or economical here. Also, don’t confuse 划算 with 算上

The most important thing to remember about 划算 is that it is a verb, not a noun. The English word “bargain” is a noun, so English speakers sometimes misuse 划算 as a noun too.

Getting more precise, 划算 is actually a stative verb. Chinese is full of these, and they are pretty much just adjectives that behave grammatically like verbs. In other words, 划算 should go in verb slots in sentences.

Let’s have a look at a few different uses for 划算 and how the word fits into a sentence grammatically.

Bargains with 划算

You can talk about things being bargains with 划算, but remember that it’s a verb and not a noun like “bargain”. You could think of 划算 as being something like “bargain-y” or “bargain-ish” to help you remember how to use it in a sentence.

这个很划算。

Zhège hěn huásuàn.

This is a bargain.

他觉得非常的划算。

Tā juéde fēichángde huásuàn.

He thought it was a real bargain.

你做了一个很划算的交易。

Nǐ zuòle yīgè hěn huásuàn de jiāoyì.

You've got a real bargain with that exchange.

Notice that 划算 means “bargain” specifically in the sense of something being a good trade or a good deal.

Getting your money’s worth with 划算

You can also use 划算 to mean “be worthwhile” or “pay well”. Really this is the same meaning as above: getting something suitable in return for something else.

在这家超市买东西划算。

Zài zhè jiā chāoshì mǎi dōngxi huásuàn.

You get your money's worth in this supermarket.

做这件事划算。

Zuò zhè jiàn shì huásuàn.

It's very worthwhile to do this.

如果折扣很划算,我们会买的。

Rúguǒ zhékòu hěn huásuàn, wǒmen huì mǎi de.

If the discount makes it worthwhile, we'll take it.

Sometimes this usage of 划算 can be a little bit tricky to translate into English. Just remember that it means “pays”, “is worthwhile” or “get your money’s worth” depending on the situation.

Being economical with 划算

Finally, another related use of 划算: “to be economical”. This is about making better decisions regarding spending or trading. Some examples:

买一个大包比买两个小包划算。

Mǎi yīgè dà bāo bǐ mǎi liǎng gè xiǎobāo huásuàn.

It's more economical to buy one big bag that two small bags.

烧煤气比烧煤划算。

Shāo méiqì bǐ shāo méi huásuàn.

Gas is more economical to use than coal.

买来回票划算。

Mǎi láihuí piào huásuàn.

It's economical to buy a return ticket.

Notice how all of the uses of 划算 described here all have the same basic meaning: getting a good deal or using your money in the best way. Also notice how all of these uses fit into the sentences as verbs.

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